The word perfume used today derives from the Latin "per fumum", meaning through smoke. Perfumery, or the art of making perfumes, began in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt and was further refined by the Romans and Persians.
Although perfume and perfumery also existed in India, much of its fragrances are incense based. The earliest distillation of Attar was mentioned in the Hindu Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita. The Harshacharita, written in 7th century A.D. in Northern India mentions use of fragrant agarwood oil.
The world's first recorded chemist is considered to be a woman named Tapputi, a perfume maker who was mentioned in a cuneiform tablet from the second millennium BC in Mesopotamia. She distilled flowers, oil, and calamus with other aromatics then filtered and put them back in the still several times.
Recently, archaeologists have uncovered what are believed to be the world's oldest perfumes in Pyrgos, Cyprus. The perfumes date back more than 4,000 years. The perfumes were discovered in an ancient perfumery. At least 60 stills, mixing bowls, funnels and perfume bottles were found in the 43,000-square-foot (4,000 m2) factory. In ancient times people used herbs and spices, like almond, coriander, myrtle, conifer resin, bergamot, as well as flowers.
The Arabian chemist, Al-Kindi (Alkindus), wrote in the 9th century a book on perfumes which he named Book of the Chemistry of Perfume and Distillations. It contained more than a hundred recipes for fragrant oils, salves, aromatic waters and substitutes or imitations of costly drugs. The book also described 107 methods and recipes for perfume-making and perfume making equipment, such as the alembic (which still bears its Arabic name).